Air pollution is one of the biggest environmental problems in the world, and nowhere is this more evident than in China. Although the government has made a lot of progress in recent years towards cleaning up and using friendlier forms of energy, pollution still remains a major issue throughout the country. There are two main reasons for this – on one hand there are still many functioning power plants, which rely solely on coal fuel for their production, and on the other, China is the largest car market in the world. There are over 300 million cars on its streets, nearly as much as the entire population of the United States. At some places the air is so bad, that you actually cannot see your hands through the thick smog. It is estimated that the pollution kills around 1.6 million people each year.
In the middle of this crisis people from around the world have stumbled over a unique business idea – packaging and selling fresh air on the Chinese market. One such are a pair of Canadians, Moses Lam and Troy Paquette of Vitality Air. In 2014 as a joke they tried selling a couple of bags of air on eBay. Incredibly, one was sold for $168 and so their product was born. Last year they sold 500,000 bottles of air, most of which went to customers in China. Another entrepreneur, Leo De Watts from Whales fills jars with air from the British countryside and ships it over to metropolitans like Shanghai and Beijing. In both cases they highlight the benefits of the crispy clean air, selling it as a luxury item to the elite.
The air in China is filled with so much dust and microscopic particles, that it is actually possible to make stuff out of from it. Which is exactly what Wang Renzheng, a Chinese artist-activist, did in 2015. Armed with an industrial vacuum cleaner he walked the streets of Beijing, sucked in air, compressed the pollutants, mixed them with clay and baked them into bricks. All in an effort to draw attention to the severity of the country’s problem.